First-ever transgenic zebrafish study in Pakistan reveals important aspects of gene regulation



 Understanding the presence and significance of introns (apparently  non-functional or junk DNA) in the human genome has always been a  hot topic for evolutionary developmental biologists. ‘Comparative and  evolutionary genomics laboratory’ in National Centre for Bioinformatics,  Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, is considered to be pioneer in the  field of “Human Gene Regulation” in Pakistan.A PhD scholar, Rashid  Minhas, from this lab has recently published an interesting story, as  the lead author,entitled “Cis-regulatory control of human GLI2 expression in the developing neural tube and limb bud”. This article published in the one of the prestigious Wiley journal, Developmental Dynamics, (DOI: 10.1002/DVDY.24266) reveals how conserved non-coding regions, called 'CNEs', docked in the introns of GLI2 gene, when tested using zebrafish as a model, act as tissue-specific enhancers.

GLI2 is a highly conserved developmental gene in vertebrates, and is shown in various studies to play a very important role during embryogenesis. Exonic mutations in this gene can cause several developmental defects like defective anterior pituitary formation, pan-hypo pituitarism, and forebrain anomalies, represented by typical holoprosencephaly and holoprosencephaly-like phenotypes and postaxial polydactyly. GLI2 has also been implicated to have a significant role in skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, and other cancers like: breast and prostate. To address the gene regulation of this important gene, Comparative and evolutionary genomics group (NCB) employed a combination of computational and functional assays to segregate its cis-regulatory modules. They selected zebrafish as an in vivo model, to test the functionality of these human-fish conserved cis-regulatory modules of GLI2.

In this study, the authors show how injecting the apparently junk DNA in zebrafish embryos, upregulates a reporter gene in several anatomical domains of this interesting little creature, especially in the central nervous system and fins.These findings open new avenues, to understand the structural, architectural and evolutionary dynamics of GLI2, and its participation in human inherited diseases.To date, it is the first-ever scientific study based on transgenic zebrafish models from Pakistan.

Annual Progress Report 2013

Annual Progress Report 2013 National Centre for Bioinformatics (NCB)

Dr. Syed Sikander Azam has been awarded international research grant through (IFS).

Dr. Sikander Azam has the privilege to be among a few scientific researchers chosen by IFS from all around the world to be awarded with the grant in the year 2014. As head of the Computational Biology Lab, it represents a great achievement on part of Dr. Syed Sikander Azam and in turn Quaid-i-Azam University as it contributes to international recognition of efforts made in the field of Bioinformatics by this research group based at the National Center for Bioinformatics. We are hopeful that requisition of this grant will pave way for future, collaborative research endeavors bringing computational research at the fore front

Dr. Syed Sikander Azam is awarded (RPA) by (PCST) for year 2014.

Dr. Syed Sikander Azam  is awarded Research Productivity Award (RPA) by
Pakistan Council of Science and Technology (PCST) for year 2014.

Asma Abro, a PhD scholar has been selected to present a research paper at the International Conference “247th ACS National meeting and exposition” organized by American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas, Texas from 16th-24th March, 2014.

Asma Abro, a PhD scholar at the Computational Biology Lab, National Center of Bioinformatics under the supervision of Dr. Syed Sikander Azam, has been selected to present a research paper at the International Conference “247th ACS National meeting and exposition” organized by American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas, Texas from 16th-24th March, 2014. She was awarded travel grant by Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan. She is bearing two international publications in highly reputed impact factor journals. Asma Abro will present her research paper entitled “Binding mode analysis of Sterol 24-C methyltransferase by Docking and molecular dynamics simulation”. Conference focuses on the role of chemistry in the global economy, health, safety, and the environment and participants are given the unique opportunity to exchange ideas with leading experts in the field.  


One day conference on “Emerging Trends in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology”

National Center of Bioinformatics (NCB), Quaid-I-Azam University, has participated in one day national conference on “Emerging Trends in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology”  organized by Muhammad Ali Jinnah University, Islamabad Campus (MAJU) on 25 May 2013. Scholars from different scientific and research institutes have shared their views. Representing NCB, Assistant Prof. Dr.Sajid Rashid (Incharge of NCB) delivered a lecture on “A novel point mutation in the pH domain reduces APPL1 binding with Reptin and β-catenin”.